Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo star alongside each other as Bella Baxter and Duncan Wedderburn in ‘Poor Things,’ a fantasy comedy movie inspired by the eponymous 1992 novel written by Alasdair Gray. Helmed by Yorgos Lanthimos, the fantastical tale showcases the evolution of Bella Baxter, a young woman brought back to life by the skilled scientist, Dr. Godwin Baxter. As a curious soul, she wants to learn all that she can about the world around her.
However, when Godwin’s overtly protective nature gets in the way of her exploring the world, Bella decides to run away with a lawyer named Duncan Wedderburn and embark on a globe-trotting adventure. From her Godwin’s London house, she travels to Lisbon, boards an ocean liner to Alexandria, and works in a Paris brothel before returning to London as a changed and grown woman. Thus, her journey across different continents, offers us a fantastical and surreal set of backdrops throughout the movie, making us wonder where ‘Poor Things’ was actually shot.
Poor Things Filming Locations
While Budapest, Hungary served as the primary production location, some parts of ‘Poor Things’ were also filmed in Glasgow, Scotland. As per reports, principal photography for the Frankenstein-inspired film got underway in August 2021 and wrapped up in about four months or so, in December of the same year. So, let’s find out the specific sites that transformed into the fantastical world of Bella Baxter!
A major chunk of ‘Poor Things’ was lensed in Budapest, the capital of Hungary situated at the center of the Carpathian Basin. In order to have total control of how everything looked and functioned, the filmmaker, Yorgos Lanthimos, planned to construct everything, including the exteriors, in the studio, from the very onset of things. Instead of shooting on location, he wanted to use old-school techniques and aesthetics, as well as the advanced technology of the modern world, to bring his vision to the screen, which he did artistically.
To implement this plan, the production team set up camp in two large studios in Budapest — Origo Film Studio and Korda Studios. Situated at Felsőkert utca, 9, the Origo Film Studio is home to nine soundstages, two VFX/multimedia stages, production office space, and a backlot area spread across over 14 acres. When it comes to Korda Studios, the film studio consists of six different sound stages, out of which the first one contains a water tank with 2 underwater side windows. All these amenities and features of the two large-scale studios combined to make the production of ‘Poor Things’ smooth.
With the construction of the sets beginning in spring 2021, the production designers took their sweet time to perfect the setting as the Lisbon set took 22 weeks to complete, the London one took 16 weeks, and the Paris one was completed in about eight weeks. The first place that Bella finds herself in after leaving Godwin’s laboratory is Lisbon, whose fantastical dream version was built on sets subtracting the blue color associated with the city to make it feel more familiar yet uncanny. One of the production designers, Shona Heath, elaborated on the same during a conversation with BFI. She stated, “In Lisbon, we didn’t use any blue ever. It was about taking some colors away to create a more enveloping place. I always imagined it as a dusty, Wizard of Oz kind of place.”
As far as the ship set is concerned, it was a 10-foot miniature, which was lit up using LED screens to give the backdrop of surreal skies and real smoke. The production designers created the deck and room sets with optical illusions, making them seem bigger than they actually were. In the above-mentioned interview, Heath also stated a few things about the wintry Paris set. She said, “In Paris, the overall feeling was the color of snow – which I always think is slightly lilac grey. The color palette was quite monochromatic, (but) then the trees were red… like lungs or veins. There was always this nod to the body, the internal.”
Talking about his experience shooting ‘Poor Things’ in Budapest, the director, Yorgos Lanthimos, said, “We had a great time in Budapest. It was a very unique experience for all of us, to be honest. And yeah, I think, when we left, we missed it immediately. No? I did. But also, I wanted to leave. You never have an incredible time making a film. The city was great, but at some point, you just have to leave.”
Located on the banks of the River Clyde, the city of Glasgow also served as a filming site to shoot additional portions of ‘Poor Things.’ Given its vast and versatile landscape, it has attracted loads of filmmakers for shooting purposes, over the years. For instance, it has hosted the production of numerous film and TV projects, including ‘The Borrowers,’ ‘The Jacket,’ ‘Emerald Green,’ and ‘Outlander.’
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